Friday, November 4, 2016

Fully Convinced

Read Romans 14

Paul continues his discourse on discipleship and brings us to this epiphany.  News Flash!  It’s not all about me.

Each of us may respond to God’s grace differently and that’s just fine.  Some might respond by singing and shouting and praising the Lord.  You might be going saw, saw, saw, pound, pound, pound, build a house for Jesus that won’t fall down.

I might be singing and sawing and shouting and pounding and that’s just fine.  We will not all respond to the grace and mercy of God that we know in Christ Jesus in the same way.

We should not judge each other’s response.  Maybe we hold Sunday in the highest regard and make it a very special day.  Maybe every day is special to us, so much so that it doesn’t make sense to distinguish any day from another.  Both are good responses to God’s grace and mercy.

Both are just part of each of us living out our discipleship.  Paul tells us that we don’t live or die unto ourselves.  That’s good biblespeak for it’s not all about me.

We live and die unto the Lord.  It is all about bringing glory to God, but in bringing him glory, God gives us considerable freedom and latitude and endless choices.  Suddenly, all of our decisions matter.  You and I may decide and respond differently to God’s love, grace, and mercy but so long as we are convinced in our own mind that this is the way to bring glory to God, then it’s just fine, well sort of…

Remember back in chapter 12 we discussed being transformed by the renewing of our minds?  We need to be convinced in our renewed mind of how we will respond to God’s mercy and grace.  Too often we are convinced in our carnal mind of how we are to live out our salvation.  Too often the mind shaped by the patterns of the world wants to govern our discipleship.

We need to remember that our best response to God’s mercy and grace is to give ourselves entirely to God—a living sacrifice if you will.  Then we begin a process of transformation from the creature that was shaped by the patterns of the world to the one made in the image and likeness of Christ Jesus.  The renewing of our mind is the engine that drives this transformation.

It is that renewed mind that guides our steps.  When we give ourselves body and mind to the Lord, the Lord directs our steps, gives us our words, and establishes our thoughts.

What you do in response to God’s love might look strange to me, but I am counseled not to judge you.  God is the only judge.  We are not entitled to judge his servants.  We examine ourselves. We will stand before the Lord at some point, but we are not to sit in the judgment seat.

We will stand before the Lord knowing that his blood has taken away all our sin, but we will account for the lives that we lived in the freedom that he gave us.  Did we respond to his great love with everything that we are?

God alone is entitled to judge.  Who am I to judge another’s servant?

Paul embarked upon a discourse of clean and unclean food.  That topic is not an issue in this modern century, especially in this country.  You may or may not want to know what is in that hotdog that you ate at the picnic, but it probably was not sacrificed to an idol before it was packaged, shipped to the store, and then charred on the grill.

But Paul’s discussion is not about food.  It is about our response to God’s mercy and how we work out our salvation as Paul put it when he wrote to the church in Philippi.  We have choices, many choices, that we make in living out our salvation.

Choices of this century are:
·     Do I drink alcohol or not?
·     Do I use tobacco products?
·     What do I put into this temple that I call my body?
·     Sweetened or unsweetened tea?

You can overdo it with any of these, but in and of themselves, alcohol, tobacco, sugar, coffee, tea, or dark chocolate are neither good or bad, holy or unholy, clean or unclean.  Unless…

Unless, in your personal convictions, coffee is no good for you in your Christian walk.  In that case, to you it is unclean and you should treat it accordingly.  You do not need to impose that belief on anyone else, but if you believe it, then live it whole-heartedly.

In today’s world, some have rejected modern devices and electronic media as unclean.  There are days that I am about ready to join their ranks when the acrimony and vitriol hit new highs, or perhaps new lows is more accurate.

But then I think about posting pictures of my grandkids or seeing your kids dressed as superheroes or in 1970’s fashions or hitting a homerun.  I think just how awesome is it that someone in China and Russia and even Burns Flat reads my messages, prayers, and devotions that I post online.

I am convinced in my own mind that I can use this medium to produce good fruit for the Lord.  I am fully convinced!

Now I see others that post nice Christian messages all the time, they like my posts that praise the Lord, they like my pictures of the what I call the Burns Flat Cross, and occasionally they even quote scripture.  Many of these people do not come to worship, tithe or make any kind of offering, join in the many service projects and ministries that are underway just about any time of year, or do much else to respond to God’s love.

My carnal mind wants to judge them.  My renewed mind tells me that they alone will answer for their response to God’s mercy and grace and God does not need a consulting opinion from me.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t continue to share, invite, encourage, and show others how to worship God in Spirit and live in the truth; but judging another believer is not in my job description.

I challenge you to find a week in the past decade where I have not invited someone to come worship with us, serve the Lord with us, or grow in God’s grace with us.  That’s not going to stop.  That’s not going to change.  Nobody’s opinion will get me off course here.  Their response belongs to them and the Holy Spirit and I have not been appointed judge over either.

Paul says blessed is the person who does not condemn himself by what he approves.  We each decide for ourselves with our renewed mind what is good and pleasing and perfect for having surrendered ourselves fully to Christ, we know God’s will.

My choices are also influenced by how they impact other people.  That does not mean that I am a people pleaser.  Believe me, there are plenty of people who are not pleased with me.  But I am called to be a God pleaser.  To please God, my choices are not only for my enrichment and edification but also for those of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

It’s not all about me.

Elsewhere in his letters, Paul counseled his readers to regard others more highly than ourselves.  In this chapter of Romans, he charges us not to become a stumbling block for another believer.  If someone is struggling with something—anything—and I flaunt the fact that I am not, then I probably am not helping this believer work through this issue.

I am not being helpful in his or her discipleship and thus am not being governed by the renewed mind that should be making very deliberate and mindful choices. I am not going to change my belief, but I won’t exercise my belief so as to hurt my fellow believer.

We not only run the race for ourselves, we help others along the way.  In the least, we don’t put obstacles in their paths. 

We carry our own load but we carry each other’s burdens.  We don’t need to add burdens to others by our choices.
It’s not all about me!

We have been given very wide boundaries in living out our salvation.  We are to do so in love and thereby we will fulfill the law, but we are called to consider our steps with regard to what we firmly believe.  We are to live in faith and not fear.

We must be convinced that the decisions that we make, the things that we do, and the things that we will not do bring glory to God and do not create stumbling blocks to another believer’s faith. 

Isaiah prophesied that one would come who would bring freedom to the captives.  This was more than freedom from Babylon.  This was and is complete freedom to live.  The prophesied one came.  His name is Jesus.  He liberated us from sin and from death and wants us to live to the full.

That’s impossible to do with our carnal mind in charge.  We will stumble and will be obstacles to other believers.  But with our lives given completely to God in response to his incredible mercy and grace, we embark on this course of transformation, so much of which depends upon letting God have his way in shaping our thoughts.

When we live with a renewed mind we will know exactly what God wants us to do.  We will know and we will live by faith.  Living by rules, or trying to guess what God wants, or just living to gratify ourselves or please others is sin.  It misses the mark of bring glory to God and living to the full.

If we do anything but live by faith, we have sinned.  What you do in faith and what I do in faith may be different, and that is just fine.  Just as our gifts are different, so too we live out our faith differently.

Can a body of believers that differ in so many ways still be a body in one accord?  Absolutely!  The things that we differ in are what might be classified as disputable matters.  They are in a category of things that we don’t have to agree on.

We agree that there is one true God.  We agree that Jesus Christ is his Son and by his blood our sins are washed away.  We are forgiven!  We believe that God’s Spirit is with us.

We believe that we are to be known as followers of Jesus—disciples—by our love.  We have been given life, seek life to the full in this age, and have the promise of life eternal.

We believe that there is one church and Jesus is the head of that church.  Regardless of the name on the side of the building or the way you baptize or take communion, we are one body.  We have some differences.  Some of them seem big.  Some seem to work to create friction in the universal church, but we who follow Jesus are not here to add to that friction by judging other believers.

We are not to judge another servant in how he responds to God’s mercy and grace with his renewed mind.  We don’t judge her choices in a life given completely to God—body and mind—as a living sacrifice.

We need to be fully convinced in our own renewed mind of our decisions as we respond to God’s mercy and grace.  

Fully convinced!  We consider our steps.

I don’t want you to have the image of walking across ice on a pond listening for cracks along the way in living out your salvation.  Our steps are considered but we are not timid.  We know the course that God has set for us for we have given him our lives to include our minds.  We are not brash but we are purposeful.

In the course of living my faith in response to God’s incredible mercy, I am fully convinced of three things.  This is Tom being fully convinced in his own mind and I am not asking you to adopt this thinking, but don’t be surprised when you hear it from me time and again because I am fully convinced.

In the wide boundaries of living out my salvation, I am called to trust, obey, and love.  I am convinced of these things.

I am called to trust God completely, even when and especially when he takes me out of my comfort zone.

I am called to obey God completely, even when his way is not my first, second, or forty-second choice.

I am called to love God by loving others, even when those others don’t like me that much or wish that I would just go away.

There are some things that are not as clear to me in my transformation process, but I can trust, obey, and love fully convinced in my own mind that this is God’s will and purpose for me in my life.  I can take bold but deliberate steps.  I can be Christ’s disciple and bring glory to God.

I challenge all of us to examine those things of which we are fully convinced in our own renewed minds.  Yes, we are still in the transformation process, but we are making progress.  The fruit of being a living sacrifice and being transformed by the renewing of our minds is that we will know what God’s will is.

It is a good and pleasing and perfect will and we can know it!

Examine what you know God has called you to do.  Be fully convinced in your own mind.  Live by faith.  Do this without focusing on how others respond to God in their transformation process.

It’s not all about me, but some of it is.  Some of following Jesus is all about what I am firmly convinced of in my own renewed mind.  We need to know and be fully convinced of how we are to respond to God’s incredible mercy and grace.

Take this week to dig into your discipleship.  Know with certainty how you are to respond to God’s love and live it fully convinced of your choices not worried if it’s like everyone else’s response and and do it without judging everyone else’s response to God’s mercy and grace. 

Live in faith!


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